The increased dependence of modern agriculture on fossil fuel-based energy, while reducing drudgery, simultaneously increases the risk of the farmer to fluctuations in fuel prices. Labour costs have also risen sharply in recent times forcing farmers to go in for mechanization. The increased frequency of extreme weather events like droughts, floods, heat-waves and cold-spells being witnessed and attributed to climate change, are also causing frequent losses to farmers. Any strategy in agriculture, therefore, should address these key challenges of land degradation, water availability, energy requirement and labour costs. Conservation agriculture addresses all these key challenges. Zero tillage (ZT) or no-tillage one of the vital approaches of conservation agriculture is now being practiced on almost 100 million ha area worldwide with the major countries being USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and Australia. However, the adoption of the technology in Asian countries has been low. The modern concept of ZT tends to imply seeding a crop mechanically in undisturbed soil-covered plant residues. By adopting the zero-tillage system, some of the countries have reportedly got substantial benefits in terms of grain production, revenue generation and environmental protection. Less tillage of the soil reduces labour, fuel, irrigation and machinery costs. In India, efforts to adapt and promote resource conservation technologies have been underway for nearly a decade but it is only in the past 4 to 5 years that the technologies are finding rapid acceptance by the farmers. In India spread of technologies is taking place in the irrigated regions in the Indo-Gangetic plains where rice-wheat cropping system dominates. ZT systems have not been tried or promoted in other major agro-eco regions like rainfed semi-arid tropics, the arid regions or the mountain agro-ecosystems. As sustainable agriculture becomes more popular, monetary grants and awards are becoming readily available... [continues]
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